Water IQ: underpinning a new brewing process with scientific knowledge

Published on
February 1, 2024

Water IQ International is a new face on Wageningen Campus. Who are they and why the move into their own space on the campus? Freddy Dekkers, the company’s director and founder, outlines the water treatment technologies that Water IQ is developing and what these have to do with beer.

How did Water IQ start?

“Water IQ has its origins in the brewing sector, where I was working on improving the quality of the malting process – that is to say, the washing, steeping and germination of the barley. While I was cataloguing interesting innovations for the Innovation Programme ‘Water Technology in the Netherlands’, I came across a purification technology that I believed had the potential to reduce the amount of waste water produced during malting. This technology formed the basis for the company that I set up in 2007. We built the first prototype of our water treatment system in a garage. When we outgrew this space, we rented our first production hall in 2013 and started expanding internationally.

What makes Water IQ’s water treatment technology unique?

“Special ceramic pellets are combined with smart microbial reactions to remove bacteria and other impurities from the water – a technique that we have patented. Our applications can also be integrated into the production process. The focus here is on selective water treatment, in which harmful substances are removed during the process, while valuable substances are retained in the water system. In this way the water is purified while it is being used, rather than afterwards. This facilitates circular processes that require less water and produce significantly less waste water.

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We have now developed applications for the brewing and horticulture sectors, as well as for groundwater and drinking water purification. The application we have developed for the malting process reduces the water needed by at least 40%. For the horticulture sector, we are developing systems that will allow growers to achieve fully circular cultivation without generating any waste water. Growing in this way also helps improve plant resilience. Our approach means that signal substances from the root environment are retained, helping plants regulate their defences.”

Water IQ’s new Research & Development facility is opening in PLUS ULTRA II this year. Why did you choose Wageningen Campus?

“It came about as a direct result of our work in the brewing sector. Our application is revolutionising the malting industry. The traditional approach involves washing the barley with a large quantity of fresh water. We are saying that you need to do the opposite: you should purify the water you are using selectively and use it over and over again, as the water not only contains impurities, but also substances that help the barley grain. Reuse strengthens the malting process.

The biggest maltster in the world has already started using this process, but in order to convince the rest of the brewing world we want to understand the process better. Malting is, after all, nothing other than initiating the germination of barley grains. The plant and food scientists at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) are the perfect partners for researching this new malting and brewing process, from grain to beer. How does it affect the flavour of the end product, for example?

The knowledge is here, and so are the people. Various vacancies are already being advertised, each one offering a fantastic role within our new facility.”

Is there much more to do before you can get on with the research?

“We got the keys a week ago. We have an amazing office space in Plus Ultra II and a wonderful facility where we can set up our pilot projects. Now there’s just a concrete floor, but we are hoping to have a laboratory up and running within three months. The market is eagerly awaiting the results and we are keen to get started!”